Posts by Sarah
The annual poll aims to find the public’s favourite Art Funded work of the year, and to celebrate a year of helping museums and galleries acquire great art. You can help and support us by voting!
‘Am Not I a Man and a Brother’ is a significant acquisition for the Museum- and the UK.
It is the first painting in our collection to show the powerful and resonant iconography of abolition. The artwork dates from around 1800 and the artist is unknown. The foot of the canvas reads, ‘Am Not I a Man and a Brother’, a variation on the more common version, ‘Am I Not a Man and a Brother’.
The painting’s dominant motif is that of an enslaved African, kneeling, bound in chains and set against the backdrop of a Caribbean sugar plantation. This is based on a design commissioned by the Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade on 5 July 1787, which is considered to be one of the first instances of a symbol designed for a political cause and was used famously by the potter Josiah Wedgwood.
It is only the second known painting to exist featuring this motif – the only other being ‘The Kneeling Slave’ at the Wilberforce House Museum in Hull.
As the abolitionist movement gained popular support, the motif was widely used for decorating men’s snuff boxes, ladies’ bracelets and hair pins, as well as household objects including milk jugs, sugar bowls and tobacco boxes.
Further enslaved people raise axes to the sugar cane in the background of the painting.
Curator Stephen Carl-Lokko, who made the acquisition, said:
“We’re so pleased to have been shortlisted for Art Fund Work of the Year 2018.
“This is a significant acquisition for the UK. While the image became an important symbol of the abolitionist movement, it also touches on the historical representation of enslaved Africans.
“Although the image was designed to appeal to the sympathies of the British public in identifying with the cause of abolition, it also reflects the misconception of enslaved Africans as passive acceptors of their fate.
“In fact the opposite was true, enslaved Africans were the main instigators in their fight for freedom, with Black abolitionists such as Olaudah Equiano, Ottobah Cugoano and Mary Prince actively campaigning as part of the British abolitionist movement.
“We address this and put this into context for our modern audience and hopefully we can start a discussion with our visitors when they see this painting about the historical representation of Black people within art.”
The acquisition was made possible through a generous grant award by the Art Fund and the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Collecting Cultures programme.
All those who vote for their favourite artwork will be entered into a free prize draw, with the chance of winning a lifetime National Art Pass worth £1,850. Vote here for your favourite in the shortlist until 5pm on Saturday 15 December 2018.
Shaina West is a real life superhero, with a backstory to rival an Avenger and an alter ego fighting to change the stigma around Black women on screen. In this guest blog, Shaina explains how she overcame the adversity of a road accident to reinvent herself as a pioneering stunt actor and the anime-inspired Instagram star: The Samurider:
“The choice to become a stunt actor was not a particularly hard one, I feel like through minimal shaping of my own, my life led me towards it – it’s been an incredible ride! It all started when I was 20 and the unthinkable happened. I was in a terrible motorbike accident. It left me stranded in hospital for weeks with a fractured neck and broken thumb. My boyfriend of the time broke up with me and I lost my job. A series of unfortunate events indeed!
“All that I was left with was a passion for Japanese culture including anime. I spent all of my time with these strong characters who could perform amazing feats and solve their problems through the physical actions of their bodies, I was inspired. I got out of my casts and back into the gym, and on my 21st birthday I got a tattoo which would remind me to be strong, do what I love and fight for what I believe in. It was from that day that I decided to teach myself martial arts and, in spirit, be like the anime characters that made me want to feel… heroic. And thus, ‘The Samurider’ was born.
“Don’t get me wrong, it was a lot of hard work; I didn’t learn any of the complex and physically demanding moves overnight. Weapon usage, again took immense research and practice just to work out which was the pointy end and which the handle! But hard work and dedication are not just words people throw out to make you feel bad. I had to train, research, train some more, practice, train again. Hard work and perseverance are essential to achieving anything. And it’s totally worth it! There is nothing like the feeling of finally mastering a flip with a sword or staff!
“For me, this is just the beginning for becoming a stunt actor and stunt choreographer. I want to be the TV role-model for the new generations that I never had as a child; a strong, fierce, relentless, extraordinary, untypical black woman who can do whatever she wants and needs. This is why I feel so strongly about wearing my hair in an afro when I perform. For so long black women have been taught to be ashamed of their natural hair texture; I’m fighting to change the stigma around black women. We do not need to conform to Eurocentric standards of beauty. We need to accept that everyone is beautiful, all women are goddesses.
“I have since worked with Disney, been involved with Star Wars, given performances and demonstrations at ACCESS ACTION: STUNTS, the first ever BAME stunt workshop and much more! Being a black stunt actor in a heavily euro-centric industry has been an eye opening experience and one day I hope to have my own TV show so that I can help get more BAME stunt actors the exposure they deserve, especially in this industry – where black actors (usually the sidekicks or villainous characters) are being represented by white stunt actors! Watch this space!”
Contact details: @TheSamurider. For more information, images or interviews, please contact: email@example.com.
For those interested in learning more about creative people of colour in digital arts, don’t miss Root-ed Zine’s inspiring workshop at the International Slavery Museum this weekend exploring moving image, photography and animation, and much more. Root-ed Zine Art Group Crit takes place 1-3pm on Saturday, 15 December. Book your free place on Eventbrite.
We are honoured to have a guest blog from Joyce Bailey, daughter of the late Lois K Alexander Lane who is celebrated on our Black Achievers Wall at the Museum.
As a young girl, Lois K Alexander would look in boutique store windows and sketch the clothes she liked. She was clearly gifted, but not allowed to go in the stores to buy anything because of her race. She later set out to dispel the myth ‘that Blacks were new found talent in the fashion industry’ and studied for a Master’s Degree from New York University. From there, her career in fashion was unstoppable. Read more…
31 August 2018 by Sarah
September is Scalarama film festival month and National Museums Liverpool is happy to be taking part with a programme of free film screenings across our venues on the waterfront! Here, one of the International Slavery Museum’s Young Ambassadors, Laila Waraich, talks about her experience of working with Scalarama film festival this summer and being a young film programmer:
As one of the International Slavery Museum’s Young Ambassadors, I helped to organise a public screening at the Museum of Jordan Peele’s acclaimed film Get Out in June. The story follows a young Black man in America who goes on a trip to the country to meet his white girlfriend’s parents for the first time. The visit takes a sinister turn when he learns the family has a history of luring Black people to their home for a horrifying purpose. The aim of our screening was to show a film featuring positive or non-stereotypical representation of people of colour and to challenge the frequently negative depictions we all see daily from Hollywood and the wider media. But we also wanted to organise a fun opportunity to see a scary, funny, contemporary film.
The first stage in our planning was a workshop led by Monika Rodriguez and a team from Scalarama Liverpool. During the session, we discussed what our ideal cinema would be like. Although most of our ideas weren’t quite achievable; ranging from a screening on a white sandy beach to watching the film in our pyjamas in bed, it helped me to understand how the environment you watch the film in matters to how much you enjoy it. We all realised there were lots of things we didn’t like about conventional cinemas, from sticky floors to ear-ringingly loud audio, and we decided to cut them from our event. The thing I liked best about designing our own screening was the freedom to create a cinema experience we thought our target audience would enjoy most, and would have the largest chance of passing across our message. However it is also a big responsibility to host a public event that is both enjoyable and impactful. Monika explained to us the importance of an introduction to an audience and how to lead the Q&A session we had planned. It was important for us to have done our research on the film in order to steer the discussion and get our audience talking. Monika reminded us that our cinema-goers would be just as nervous to speak to the room as we were!
Another important decision we made with our audience in mind was the choice of film. We researched lots of options that we felt were both entertaining films but also featured BAME characters in leading roles. It was important that the films contained positive representation and didn’t fall into the common and dangerous trap of lazily stereotyped people of colour that we came across a lot, even in recent Hollywood pictures. Among the options discussed were Belle; Moonlight, 2017’s Best Picture winner; and Loving, about an interracial couple’s famous battle against the law. When looking for films, we were conscious of the need for it to be an entertaining, engaging film that would appeal to the general public, as well as ‘important.’ I found this aspect of film programming very interesting; the programmer has to balance what is likely to be popular with the audience as well as personal preference. This means it is not always the best idea to pick your favourite film or an obscure, vintage, foreign language documentary when planning a screening. Eventually after several rounds of tense group votes, it was either Black Panther, the popular Marvel superhero blockbuster with a mainly black cast, or Get Out. Choosing the winning film was even closer and more difficult, but eventually we decided Get Out featured both clever social comment and exciting action, making it perfect for us.
In the run up to the event we began a Marketing campaign, another aspect of film programming that Monika stressed the importance of for a successful event. Other members of the team did extra research, wrote a promotional blog post for the International Slavery Museum’s website, while I took part in writing web copy to further promote the film. I really enjoyed this because I gained experience of how to market public events from the inside, under the guidance of Education team at the International Slavery Museum. As a group, we also developed ideas for a poster for our event, which we passed on to Toucan Tango, a Liverpool print company, who turned the design ideas into a beautiful poster. It was fun to see our ideas brought to life and made into artwork that was specific to our project, with the detail featuring symbolism of enslavement taken from objects in the Museum’s collection.
On the 16 June, we hosted the screening at the Dr Martin Luther King Jr building at the Royal Albert Dock, Liverpool. After I delivered a short introduction welcoming visitors and providing some background information about the film, the lights went down. The Scalarama workshop was very useful when I was choosing what to say in my introduction, as it helped me to understand how different information the audience does or does not have before watching a film changes their experience of it.
After the film, the whole Young Ambassadors group, as well as Dr Richard Benjamin, the Head of the Museum, sat on a panel for a Q&A style discussion with the audience. At first the discussion centred around our opinions of the characters and talking points about the film, such as an alternative ending, before we moved on to issues of race relations in the UK compared to America, where the film is set. The fact that watching the film created the kind of conversation about race that it aims to do, at our screening, was really positive and exciting. It also helped to convince me that our Marketing of the event was successful, as we ended up with a room of like-minded people having an interesting conversation. As well as the film, there was also a handling table of objects from the Museum’s collection relating to the legacies of enslavement covered in the film and historical representation of people of colour, with Ambassadors on hand to explain the significance of items to the visitors. Finally, we handed out screen-printed copies of the limited edition poster to all the guests as a reminder of the occasion.
Overall, I hope everyone enjoyed the film at our screening as much as we did, even after having seen it before. Hosting a screening is a rewarding experience because you get the opportunity to share something you care about with members of the public. It also taught me how valuable it is to discuss a film with others, as everyone has different opinions and sees the same story from different angles, creating interesting questions that stayed with me well after the screening finished. Becoming a cinema is fun, exciting and not as hard as you would think. Most importantly, people will definitely turn up! If you do have an idea, you can take part in Scarlarama’s September festival.
National Museums Liverpool is taking part in Scalarama film festival this September with a programme of films across our waterfront venues, beginning with a screening of Hidden Figures at the International Slavery Museum, and its Young Ambassadors, on Saturday 1 September.
22 August 2018 by Sarah
Are you joining us on the Walk of Remembrance this year? Every year thousands of people come together with us to make a special journey through Liverpool city centre.
People from all walks of life join the procession of reflection and take part in a public Libation service at the Royal Albert Dock, Liverpool to mark International Slavery Remembrance Day on 23 August – the date of the first successful revolution of enslaved Africans on the island of Saint Domingue (Modern Haiti) in 1791. This uprising led to the founding of an independent free country and inspired the fight for abolition across the globe.
We walk over and through some sites of historical significance on our Walk. Here, our Visitor Host, Daniel Wright, talks about the porthole in Liverpool One:
As I attend the walk of remembrance on 23rd of August (I hope to see you there! ) I will be very aware that the majority of people making the walk through the city centre may not know the significance of what is below their feet when they walk past the little porthole next to John Lewis.
On this journey toward Liverpool’s waterfront, people will pass the small porthole outside the store. It actually provides the viewer with a glimpse of the Old Dock, the world’s first commercial, enclosed wet dock.
Liverpool’s Old Dock was designed by 18th century civil engineer Thomas Steers. The importance of this dock is not to be underestimated. When it opened in 1715, due to its revolutionary gate system it was the most efficient dock on the planet. A ship could load or unload its cargo within a day and a half and be ready to go back out to sea. This was a vast improvement to the usual two week turn over period at the time. As a result commercial trade increased quickly and Liverpool became a major world trading port.
The new efficient dock system strengthened Liverpool’s role in the Transatlantic Slave Trade. This unfortunately meant that Liverpool became a main port within the ‘Transatlantic Trade Triangle’. This horrendous triangle of trade was the foundation to the town’s prosperity and development.
Slaver Ships would leave Liverpool and journey to West Africa where traders in enslaved Africans were responsible for Liverpool seizing over 50% of the British trade. From there, millions of Africans were enslaved and transported to the Americas in horrific conditions. On arrival, the enslaved Africans would be sold and forced to work on plantations.
Liverpool slaver ships would return months later, carrying expensive and highly sort after commodities. These included sugar, tobacco, cocoa, cotton, coffee and rum.
Legacies of Liverpool’s links with the transatlantic slave trade are still around today. Street names such as Gildart Street, Bold Street and even the famous Penny Lane are all named after Liverpool traders. A detailed list can be seen in the International Slavery Museum on the third floor of the Maritime Museum at the Royal Albert Dock, Liverpool.
It’s quite poignant that our route toward Liverpool’s waterfront will echo the exact same route slaver ships followed centuries before…
If you would like to join the Walk of Remembrance, we are meeting at 11am on 23 August at the Church street bandstand (Liverpool City Centre). The Walk will finish at the Dr Martin Luther King Jr building, Royal Albert Dock, where we will hold a Libation, an ancient spiritual ceremony, at 12noon. Full details of this year’s Slavery Remembrance Day events.
10 August 2018 by Sarah
Have you seen the new design for our Slavery Remembrance Day posters and leaflets this year?
They are all around the city centre and waterfront promoting Slavery Remembrance Day and the Unity Carnival.
A big, pale yellow flower sits in the middle of a black background.
Have you wondered why we have used this image? There are two reasons:
First, and for the first year ever, we have added a theme to the programme of celebration, commemoration and remembrance we hold annually for Slavery Remembrance Day. And that theme is ‘growth’. Many of our events will explore that idea this year.
This year’s design is related to growth, because the pale yellow flower on our new posters is actually the okra flower. We all know, and many of us will eat, the green vegetable – but maybe don’t recognise the flower. Read more…
11 July 2018 by Sarah
International Slavery Museum Young Ambassador, Lois South, had the opportunity to go behind the scenes at Liverpool Carnival Company and interview their Director Maeve Morris. Find out more about Lois’ experience here:
“Upon entering The Old Library on Lodge Lane, I was hit by a whirlwind of feathers, sequins and, of course, glitter! The once unused space has been transformed into what I can only describe as a factory of wonders, where founders Maeve and Roger Morris, churn out costumes and floats in every conceivable colour, with the help of a dedicated team of volunteers. Read more…
20 June 2018 by Sarah
From tomorrow at the Museum, you’ll be able to see the Terrace Tapestries – the artworks which launched the Art of Football season, which is happening now across Liverpool. Entry to the Terrace Tapestries display will be free and everyone is welcome!
The FotoOcto arts collective instigated Terrace Tapestries as part of the Art of Football season and worked with The Florrie and artist Peter Carney to create the banners. They have been designed to show unity and cohesion across communities, which we love, and we’re proud to display them together.
Enjoy this blog by Jah Jussa, filmmaker and co-director of FotoOcto alongside photographer Tabitha Jussa, on the Terrace Tapestries:
“We’ve long admired the banners and flags created as fan art by the football fans of Merseyside. From the Everton 1984 FA Cup offering, ‘Sorry Elton, I guess that’s why they call us the Blues’, to Liverpool’s fan favourite, ‘Joey ate the Frogs legs…’ from the 1977 European Cup final, football supporters on Merseyside have laughed and coalesced behind fans banners – banners that some would call ‘folk art’ or fan culture, but which we consider to be true art and invention.
“The World Cup is the ultimate football tournament for bringing fans of different cultures and experiences together. As the World Cup 2018 got closer, and the idea of Art of Football was born, we started to think what if we made a banner for each country? How would each country represent themselves? And what would happen if we paraded them all through the centre of town before exhibiting them in the International Slavery Museum’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. building? We set out to discover.
“We wanted a fans representation of their country – no flags, but we’d have the country’s badge on one side – we wanted to veer away from nationalism to a more rounded depiction of each country.
“We got famed LFC banner maker Peter Carney on board. Peter is world renowned for his Hillsborough memorial banner, and more recently for the Sean Cox banner that the players of LFC took onto the pitch after the second semi final against Roma. Peter came up with the idea of a circular banner, representing the world within football and set about making the prototype – England’s banner which shows Liverpool as the most successful football city in the country – a total of 27 league titles between Liverpool and Everton.
“We reached out to the communities of each country on Merseyside and we ran polls on twitter aimed at national teams, newspapers and fans groups to select the final design.
“The workshops were based at The Florrie, in the Dingle area of Liverpool, and over two weeks the banners were created. Where possible we invited people from each country to implement the design. When they couldn’t come, we got local artists and community members to help. Samia came from the French community, Francis and Cleuman from the Brazilian community, Omar from Syria came and helped Paul from The Florrie with the Arabic script for his Mo Salah/Egypt design. And artists and non-artists from the Dingle got creative with the paint.
“In the end we produced 33 banners. One for each of the world cup countries and also an extra one for us. Omar wrote ‘Love and Peace’ in Arabic and graphic artist Slim Smith designed the ‘World united through football’ motif. On the back, we got handprints from all of the artist involved.
“With the images finished, the fabric was given to fashion designer Paula Johnson to make into the circular banners that you can see.
“Ultimately, what we wanted to show was that the world can be united, and if it’s through football, even for a four week period every four years, then that can only be a good thing.”
Find out when you can see the Terrace Tapestries at our Dr Martin Luther King. Jr building. Entry is free.
As part of our International Women’s Day and #Vote100 programme, our visitors worked with textiles artist Seleena Daye to create a banner celebrating inspiring female abolitionists who fought to end slavery.
In this blog, Seleena shares the processes she used to create the banner and more about the inspiring women who are featured.
“So much of what we read around slavery and the abolition of it is very male centric, so to sit down with a bunch of women of all ages and celebrate through a medium often deemed as ‘women’s work’ was a great way to celebrate International Women’s Day.
“The reasons why each participant made the piece they did were so varied, from the felt portrait of Sojourner Truth, which was made as a personal challenge to the creator as it was something she had never done and didn’t think she could do. To the embroidered portrait of the Forten Sisters, which was chosen because the creator of that piece is herself 1 of 3 sisters? The Mary Prince piece was chosen because Mary Prince came from Bermuda, like the grandparents of another attendee. Even the piece including an afro comb has a connection both to the creator and to slavery, bringing up discussions around Black hair and the heritage of hairstyles, for example around cornrows being used by enslaved women who, rarely being allowed time or opportunity to do their hair, may have desired a style that would last.
“When bringing the contributions together into a finished piece, I added imagery of other women abolitionists such as Harriet Tubman and Ellen Craft and also explored ways in which people escaped from enslavement, through the Underground Railroad, quilt codes and navigating escape using constellations. There is the quilt code included in the banner, that meant ‘follow the North Star’ and the constellation in the centre is of The Big Dipper which features the North Star.
“In the banner’s corner are some dates, ‘1865 – 2018’, making reference to the date of abolition in the United States of America, and the words ‘Keep Fighting For Freedom’ sitting next to a portrait of Malala Yousafazi, who is a modern day female activist fighting for the freedom of young girls, pointing out that POC are still not truly free. In the opposite corner sits a square with bananas and a cotton plant, things we use today, that one time were picked by the hands of enslaved people, and in some cases still picked by people who don’t have basic human rights.
“I have also included coloured hessian within the banner to represent the goods being packed into hessian sacks, to indigo and African batik inspired fabrics that are a nod to the continent enslaved people were taken from, Africa. I hand dyed the centre piece fabric which was originally a pale blue cotton. I dyed one end green and the other midnight blue, signifying the huge journey many people took, from earth to the sky. The central image of the banner is a silhouette of a woman in shackles under the slogan ‘Am I not a woman and a sister’ which is inspired by abolition imagery used by campaigners at the time, but can also be a message that rings true today.
“It was such a pleasure to be able to create something so important amongst other women who stitched and spoke of solidarity and hardships and how far we’ve come and how far we still have yet to go.
We are women and sisters.”
Our new female abolitionists banner is here at the International Slavery Museum within the Anthony Walker Education Centre.
This workshop was part of our Adult Creative Offer.
8 November 2017 by Sarah
Contemporary artist Maggi Hambling visited Liverpool today, to give ‘Good Time George’ – her painting of her close friend and Liverpudlian George Melly – to the Walker Art Gallery.
George was the most colourful son of Liverpool: jazz performer, surrealist, comic, raconteur, critic and author, often referred to fondly as ‘Good Time George’.